Before they called it quits in 2005, the Delgados began easing up on the swirling orchestral-rock arrangements they inherited from the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, whose Dave Fridmann produced both 2000's The Great Eastern and 2002's Hate. Check out the Scottish quartet's relatively stripped-down swan song, Universal Audio, for a suggestion that they might've started worrying that Fridmann's strings-and-things were threatening to overwhelm their modest indie-pop songwriting.
This solo debut by Emma Pollock, one of the Delgados' two singer-guitarists, isn't quite the plain-Jane affair you'd therefore expect. "New Land" opens with a bombastic circus-organ intro, and the pounding pianos in "Adrenaline" illustrate what the Delgados picked up by covering ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" for a Peel Session in 2003.
Still, despite the somewhat misleading title, Watch the Fireworks is a scrappier and smaller-scale production than any of the Delgados' records (including Universal Audio). In pretty folk-pop lullabies like "Limbs" and "This Rope's Getting Tighter," Pollock keeps the focus on her acoustic guitar and sexy-sandpaper vocals, while "Acid Test" throbs with the lean, all-ages energy of great mid-'90s U.K. acts like Bis and Huggy Bear. The tunes can tend toward the forgettable, and they definitely lack the sweet-and-sour male-female chemistry Pollock and Alun Woodward had the good sense to build the Delgados' music around. But there's enough charm here to keep you from tuning out for too long.
EMMA POLLOCK opens for the New Pornographers on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, at FIRST AVENUE; 612.332.1775
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